In case you missed it: Dr. Siegel debunks ‘vaping causes heart attacks’ study as Junk Science
Last week, a UPI report linking vaping to increased risks of heart attacks was being picked up my every major news outlet worldwide. The basis of the claim stems from a research paper that was as-yet unpublished but soon to be unveiled at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in Hawaii later this week.
According to the UPI report, the paper’s researchers evaluated cross-sectional data compromised from the 2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After taking into consideration the survey participants’ ages, body max indices, genders, smoking backgrounds, and histories of diabetes, the authors determined that vaping increases the risks of eventually reporting a heart attack by as much as 59 percent.
If this were to be true, then even the most avid vaping enthusiast would have significant cause for concern, which might lead them to rethink their trust in the mighty vape altogether. However, there appears to be substantial holes in the study’s research techniques and resulting conclusions, according to public health expert Dr. Michael Siegel.
New vaping study is ‘irresponsible’ at best, junk science at worst.
Dr. Siegel is a world-renowned Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health. In the past, Dr. Mike has blasted the American Heart Association for issuing misleading claims to the youth of Wisconsin which suggested that vaping and smoking are equally as dangerous to public health. He’s also reprimanded the American Heart Association for publishing “alternative facts” about the health benefits of e-cigarettes.
So, when Dr. Seigel came across the “vaping causes heart attacks” story in the press, he was understandably intrigued. When he discovered that the American Lung Association was endorsing the project, he became even more skeptical.
One of the first things that may have caught his attention about the UPI report is that the research had not yet been published. In fact, only the abstract was readily available. Yet journalists around the globe were already reporting the “study” as fact.
Secondly, even after reading only the abstract, Siegel instantly noted some glaring flaws in the research. According to his website The Rest of the Story: Tobacco and Alcohol News Analysis and Commentary, the co-authors failed to make one very important distinction. When evaluating the data, they asked if the participants had ever experienced a heart attack. They also asked if the participants had ever vaped.
Unfortunately, the researchers failed to identify if the vaping took place either before or after the alleged cardiovascular incident. This is important because the mainstream media headlines largely suggest that the vaping came first and the heart attack followed, implying that “vaping causes heart attacks.”
“It is irresponsible to use the results of this cross-sectional study to conclude (or even suggest) that e-cigarette use increases heart attack or stroke risk. Why? Because the study only assessed the relationship between "ever" having used e-cigarettes and "ever" having had a heart attack. The study has no information on which came first. In other words, it is entirely possible (and in fact quite likely) that the majority of respondents who reported having used e-cigarettes and having had a heart attack actually suffered the heart attack first and then subsequently started using electronic cigarettes because they were desperate to quit smoking after experiencing this life-threatening event.”
Dr. Siegel proves his point further. By employing the same methodologies used in the Junk Science study, he conducted his own analysis using the same BRFSS criteria. However, instead of focusing on vaping, he substituted persons trying to quit smoking. Surprisingly, he discovered that by quitting smoking – or even trying to – the patient incurs a whopping 41 percent increased risk of a future heart attack.
This statistic is obviously bogus. It suggests that it would be healthier for a smoker to keep smoking after the incurrence of a cardiac event, which is completely ridiculous. Or as Dr. Seigel puts it,
“Sadly, we don't have to recommend that physicians counsel smokers not to try to quit -- the American Lung Association is already doing that.”
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